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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Quality Assurance in Education, Volume 22, Issue 2
There is very cold and snowy weather affecting the Eastern United States; floods are engulfing the South of England with the Thames barrier flood mitigation system being tested. Conflict in Syria has resulted in millions of people being displaced and most are living in camps in the Middle East countries surrounding Syria. Meanwhile, there is significant unrest in the Ukraine, with riots in Kiev and the countrys President under pressure.
The natural disasters tend to be severe, but short lived, with things returning to normal in a relatively short period of time. The effect on education at all levels is disruptive and affects teaching activity where there is pressure to deliver the curriculum and it may affect assessment deadlines with a consequent effect on marking schedules. However, in a few short weeks, the snow and ice will be gone, the flooded villages will have dried out and the spring weather will be accompanied by the end of another semesters work for staff and students.
The civil unrest in Syria and in the Ukraine, however, does not have such a short term impact on people and their wellbeing. Many innocent civilians have been killed and many have been exposed to the horrors of war-like conditions. Many of the Syrian refugees have already been displaced for several years and the Ukraine may continue to endure conditions of unrest. The impact of these circumstances on education and the education systems are likely to be severe. Children in overcrowded camps in the Middle East are often left without schooling and civil unrest in cities is likely to see schools closed for the safety of the schools pupils. In higher education, the situation is likely to be similar with no education available for the majority of Syrian refugees and many of the institutions in the Ukraine not functioning.
The role of education in the aftermath of natural disasters and civil unrest cannot be underestimated. The contribution of the natural sciences, social sciences and the arts in the recovery process all provide enhanced understanding of the causes, the consequences and the road map to a better future after the events. This requires that research, and teaching and learning agendas continue to be pursued and that the education available to those displaced, who have been temporarily deprived of educational opportunity, is even better informed by the quality improvements and enhancements that the community of scholars continue to develop.
In this issue, the first paper by Jonathan Talbot, David Perrin and Denise Meakin explores the increasingly important matter of the impact of delivery partnerships on quality in higher education. The particular focus of this paper is in the field of work based learning. In the current context, many employers are seeking to recruit candidates who have work experience or who are “work ready. This can be achieved within higher education programs through the introduction of work based learning activity in the education program. One of the challenges that arise in this context is how to assure and assess the learning that has been achieved in the workplace through work based learning. Of course, the next challenge is to design ways of bringing quality assurance to the learning and assessment process when the work placement is not part of the institution and the assessment is conducted in the workplace by staff who are not usually academics. The authors argue that this is analogous to other partnerships where some of the teaching and assessment is delivered by an academic delivery partner.
In the second paper by Zakarya A. Alzamil informs the reader that, although technical education is managed by a government agency in Saudi Arabia, there is no agency charged with the responsibility for accrediting education providers in the technical education context. This is in contrast to the widespread development of higher education accreditation agencies in many developed economies and the parallel development of agencies for the accreditation of technical and vocational education in those economies. The author proceeds by developing a set of self-evaluation standards based on the elements of training processes namely the curriculum, environment, training management and instructors. By benchmarking their standards against other respected and recognised standards, the authors propose a framework that can be deployed to assess, assure and improve the quality of technical education in technical institutions that are managed and supervised by the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation of Saudi Arabia.
The third paper in this issue by Mahsood Shah and Chenicheri Sid Nair revisits the debate about strategy in academic institutions by considering the case of universities in Australia. The context that is provided is one of turbulence and change with governments reducing the unit of resource, seeking significant growth in the number of people in the population who have a tertiary qualification and opening up provision to non-traditional higher education providers. This is compounded by the stakeholders in higher education placing much greater, and sometimes mutually exclusive, demands on institutions. The authors indicate that the literature on strategy, both development and implementation, is limited despite the increasing importance of a strategic approach to the challenges presented to the sector in delivering for stakeholders while, at the same time, maintaining quality and standards. The authors conclude that the Vice-Chancellors and senior managers of universities must be responsible for the development and implementation of strategy to enable sustainability of institutions.
The fourth paper, by Maureen Tam, addresses the matter of outcomes in higher education, focusing on what graduates can actually do on completion of their tertiary education qualification. This is part of an increasingly pervasive movement from using inputs as a measure of education, through the process approach and then to outputs to focus on outcomes. The author highlights the importance of learning outcomes in shaping the curriculum at the course or program levels. The alignment of outcomes, teaching and learning and assessment is essential and can be used to nurture a more systematic approach to course and program design.
Michelle Morgan, in the fifth paper in this issue, investigates some of the precursor factors that influence the success of science, technology engineering and mathematics when students embark on a taught postgraduate Masters program. In particular, the authors examine the antecedent experiences of these students based on a sample from an institution in the UK. This is an important area of research in view of the increasing propensity of students with a bachelors degree to use the Masters level qualification as a way of enhancing their career prospects. The differences between students who were first generation university participants and those who were second generation university participants in terms of resilience and retention are discussed.
The final paper in this issue is by Nurdan Çolakolu and Esra Atabay. These authors have researched the Turkish higher education system from the perspective of the staff in two different elements of the system, the vocational schools of the Foundation and the Public universities. The authors gathered over 300 responses from staff from a variety of institutions to a questionnaire that solicited information about job satisfaction in the two different types of institution. The results are instructive in that they indicate what the academic staff value about their working environment and their conditions of employment.
In this issue, we have papers that examine the related issues of work based learning and an outcomes-based approach to assessment and enhancement of learning. There are related papers from Turkey and the Middle East that focus on aspects of assuring the quality of vocational education and training through the establishment of standards to guide quality improvement and through addressing the needs and wants of academic staff. This is very important since education is a service sector activity and the experience of the service recipients depends on the situation of the front line service providers. The final two papers address the role of strategy in academic institutions in a turbulent environment and the pressing matter of the influence of antecedent experiences on a cohort of science, technology, engineering and mathematics students studying taught Masters degrees at an institution in the UK. Both of these papers alert us to the variability of the context both internally in the classroom and externally in the political sphere. The Editorial Team recommends these contributions to the readership for consideration of the potential that some of the approaches and methods may have for application in their own institutions to enhance the quality of provision and to enrich the student experience.